Vice President moves to his own palace by the Bay in March

February 13, 2011 12:59 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Feb. 11 — Vice President Jejomar C. Binay on Friday morning received a symbolic key to the compound of the Coconut Palace by the Manila Bay from Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President and General Manager Roberto Vergara in ceremonies at the site itself.

With that, the Office of the Vice President (OVP) has finally found a palace of its own, albeit a newer one than the Malacanang Palace by the Pasig River.

Binay was also presented by Daniel Lacson, chair of the GSIS board of trustees, with a coconut sapling, to remind that most of the famed 1970’s-vintage GSIS property is made of materials from the coconut tree.

The presentation of symbols followed the signing of a document between Binay and Vergara that turned over the building to the OVP for an undisclosed initial one-year lease of “about P400,000,” half the rent of its location at the PNB Building nearby.

The Vice President himself and the OVP’s immediate staff of between 10 to 15 is scheduled to move into the new venue next month, after minimal refurbishing and slight carpentry work are done on the 4,000 square meter ground floor area where the country’s second highest official will be working out of and receiving dignitaries and visitors.

The OVP’s administrative and financial section remain at the PNB Building.

In remarks after the signing, Binay said that February 11 is auspicious because future Vice Presidents will have their own home.

“The Coconut Palace gives the Office of the Vice President the dignity that has been lacking for the past years. And it does so at a much lower budget, assuring savings for the taxpayers,” he added. The compound sits on a 40,000 square meter area.

“We intend to make history at the Coconut Palace by making the Office of the Vice President a more active participant in shaping government policy for the poor, and in helping our President (Aquino) fulfill his aspirations for the country,” the Vice President continued.

Binay thanked President Benigno Aquino III for offering the Coconut Palace as an official residence of the Vice President and the GSIS for facilitating the turnover.

Considered the crown jewel of GSIS, it was designed by Architect Francisco Minoza and built in 1978 during the Presidency of Ferdinand Marcos.

Famous world celebrities who have stayed at the resort-type compound, which also has a swimming pool, included actors Brooke Shields and the late George Hamilton.

The Vice President’s aides, including political officer Erwin Maceda, said the idea of a home is “wonderful,” saying he’s “excited not only for himself but also for his principal (Binay).”

“It will do good for the Vice President because now we also have a place for ceremonial events,” Maceda noted that at the PNB location, visitors have to wait in line while earlier guests were being attended do.

The private family of Binay, who is a doting grandfather who allows his grandchildren into his inner chambers, has the option to live on the second floor of the Palace, but an aide said “it is likely they are not moving in.”

According to GSIS executive Danny Martinez, officer-in-charge of the Coconut Palace, the plan is for the public to be able to continue visiting the second floor area, which has a storied past.

Among those who attended the ceremony were the Vice President’s family that included his wife Elenita, who also served as Makati City Mayor and his son, incumbent Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay, Labor Secretary Rosalina Baldoz, and heads of the various housing and shelter agencies and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. (PNA)

vcs/GJB

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